Good Out of Gaza
Ever since the Israeli boarding of the Mavi Marmara turned tragically violent, accusations and counter accusations have filled the air like the shells of an artillery engagement. Who was is in the right? Who was in the wrong? Who were the villains? Who the heroes? Who the perpetrators? Who the victims? As some commentators have correctly pointed out – painfully so – there has been so much debate over issues of responsibility that no one, on either side, has taken the time to honestly lament for those who were killed or injured. Yes, both sides have decried the bloodshed, but to be truthful, their outrage has been far more politically motivated than humanely so. The dead and injured on both sides quickly ceased to be human beings, having been transformed into political pawns. Sounds harsh? Then consider this. How many articles and news reports or releases have you seen that actually have mentioned these individuals by name? Names do not seem to be important here; just numbers, as though we have been keeping some sort of macabre score card.
With all the heated rhetoric of the moment, it might appear as though the world is falling apart. Maybe it is. But then again, maybe it isn’t. Maybe the Arab world will unite under the leadership of the extremists in Iran and make one more attempt to annihilate the “Zionist entity.” But then again, after all the shouting dies down, few Arab nations will really be interested in aligning themselves with Iran and fewer still will be willing to actually go to war with Israel. And all this will turn out to be just another one of those earth shattering momentary crises, as the world, and especially the Middle East, returns to the status quo.
But then again, maybe out of this painful tragedy some light might be shed. Maybe what today may be perceived as possibly “the end of the world” may actually wind up turning out to be the birthing of a new future.
Let’s admit it! The naval and land blockade of Gaza is not exactly new news. Yes, pro-Palestinian supporters and sincere human rights activists have voiced their protests over the suffering of the residents of that besieged strip of land for some time now. Israelis themselves have expressed their deep regret – indeed anguish – over what they have perceived as their need to impose such a stranglehold on Gaza and the suffering which it causes. Yes, Israel has presented massive amounts of compelling evidence as to why they must control Gaza’s borders so diligently in order to prevent a steady influx of weaponry which would be directed against Israelis, and especially against Israeli civilian population centers. The thousands upon thousands of rockets and mortar shells which have rained down upon communities such as Sderot, launched by Hamas from Gaza, have been pointed out to the world as proof positive of the very real dangers that the Israelis are attempting to address. Yet, while everyone in the world has made note of this situation, expressed their concerns and regrets, still, at the end of the day, no one has really stepped forward with any real energy or creativity in an attempt to resolve it. While everyone had an opinion, and many expressed their opinions, still beyond the talk, people just seemed willing to let the matter stand as it, accepting the simple alternatives of blockade or no blockade, with nothing in between.
But not any longer. Now, as a result of this tragedy, everyone, including the Israelis, are looking at the blockade of Gaza with new eyes. Everyone, including Israel, have come to the conclusion that the status quo simply will not continue to work. Change is in the air. Change is inevitable. Maybe.
Today, outside of the Arab world, the critics of the blockade are no longer simply staying, :Lift It!” They are recognizing that raw pressure will never succeed in budging Israel. Indeed, seeing how serious Israel is about maintaining this blockade – even at the high cost we have witnessed – they are coming around to recognizing that there can be no change in this situation without seriously addressing Israeli security concerns as well as of the humanitarian needs of the residents of Gaza. One need look no further than at the Obama administration, which has been coming down heavily on Israel as of late and has been talking more and more about Israel being a strategic liability rather than an asset to witness such a broadening view. When the 7th vessel set off on its journey, the United States chose to join Israel in encouraging them NOT to attempt to run the blockade but rather to allow themselves to be escorted into the port of Ashdod, where their cargo could be inspected, off-loaded, and then sent via land to Gaza. The Israelis even agreed to permit the transport into Gaza of concrete, which the humanitarian activists claim is for building homes but which Israel has seen Hamas sidetrack in the past to be used in the building of bunkers.
Perhaps the day is not to far off when such cargo ships can be inspected at sea; when the nations of the world will respect Israel’s responsibility to protect its citizens from the import into Gaza – into the hands of Hamas – of weapons intended to be used against Israel. Perhaps the nations of the world will cooperate with Israel in the thorough conduct of such inspections. Perhaps, if Israel could be convinced that by such inspections, Hamas could effectively be denied the receipt of more arms, then once inspected, she will permit these ships to continue on their journey and reach the Gaza shores, where the humanitarian aid could be delivered direct.
Of course, the wild card in all this is Hamas. So far, Hamas has claimed that they will not permit the humanitarian supplied, off loaded in Ashdod, to enter Gaza. It is obvious that the “breaking” of the blockade is a far higher priority for them than alleviating the suffering of their people. But can they sustain that posture? Any gains which they have made as a result of the recent events can easily slip from their fingers if they expose themselves to the eyes of the world as the true barrier denying the people of Gaza the help they need. But, of course, that would only happen if the nations of the world would open themselves to admitting that in this situation, Israel may not be the only villain, nevertheless the primary villain.
Violence and bloodshed are essentially meaningless. Lives lost in this way are certainly lost in vain. They are lost due to the failure of reason. But if the suffering born of these recent events results in laying the foundations for a more effective, humane, and mutually workable resolution to the challenge of getting humanitarian supplies to the people of Gaza without arming Hamas at the same time, then perhaps the suffering born of this tragedy might result in having served some higher purpose. Only time will tell.